By Jack Dignan
In this year’s Zootopia, Disney dealt with themes of racism. They created a fun and loveable buddy cop movie with animals that was also heavy hitting and incredibly important. They followed this up with Moana, which ended up being one of their best movies in years. It not only brought light to a culture not frequently seen on film, but also broke all the Disney conventions and took one huge leap forward for diversity and the role of certain characters in film. Both Finding Dory and Kung Fu Panda also dealt with themes of family and the love we have for them, and heck, even Trolls dealt with themes around finding happiness in the darkest of times. Then, there’s Sing. It’s a cute movie about animals that sing. So yeah, it’s safe to describe this as one of the weaker animated films of 2016.
Sing revolves around Buster Moon (Mathew McConaughey), a down on his luck koala with a love for musical theatre, despite none of his shows work out. So what does this optimistic koala decide to do? He decides to put on a musical talent show, inviting the whole town to audition. The problem is, and Buster doesn’t know this, there was a misprint on the audition call, offering up more money than he’s ever had in his entire life. So of course, everyone auditions, and making their way through to the show is a pig named Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a second pig named Gunter (Nick Kroll), a porcupine named Ash (Scarlett Johanson), a gorilla named Johnny (Taren Egerton), a mouse named Mike (Seth McFarlane), and a shy elephant named Meena (Tori Kelly).
If anything’s become evident in all of Illumination’s animated films, it’s that they tell really simple stories. There’s never a lot of depth, merely the characters getting from point a to point b with mild characterization, but it seems to be working for them. A lot of their films are actually pretty good, and the characters are always as loveable as ever, if not generic. It’s fun, family friendly entertainment that’s harmless in nature, but thin on plot. The characters are each distinct and have interesting dynamics to add to the whole thing, and when put together, it can be quite an entertaining ride.
Set to the backdrop of countless famous songs, you’re sure to be dancing along to at least a few of them. The soundtrack does feel scattershot at times, especially in the film’s opening, which just cuts from song to song to song on no end, but when in the moment, each seems to work. The song covers never fail to deliver, either working as a great adaption or a humorous take on the original song. The montage in which everyone auditions is one of the best moments in the film, as Illumination gets to play around with so many different things. I never thought I wanted to see a snail singing ‘Ride Like The Wind’ until I saw this movie.
The film even throws in a few original songs into the mix. There’s not many, but they’re there, and while the songs themselves aren’t bad, they’re not awfully memorable. With so many different songs crammed into the one movie, the original songs find themselves lost and buried in the moment. I remember them being fun while they lasted, but I can barely remember any of the lyrics. Trolls did a similar thing earlier this month, but their original songs worked because the rest of the soundtrack didn’t overburden them. Plus, the scenes they were in were unforgettable and easily the highlights of the film. The original songs in Sing just come and go without much attention needed. They let themselves slip under the radar, in a way.
Even just looking at the film’s plot, there’s not a lot going on. There’s a message of never giving up on your dreams, and while I do like that message, it’s something that we’ve seen a thousand times before. There’s rarely an ounce of originality put into this film, the plot being a combination of a large handful of generic sub-plots. Johnny has a criminal past he wants to escape? Oh, no. Mike is in some trouble with gangsters? Oh, no. Meena has a great voice but isn’t confident? Oh, no. Rosita isn’t appreciated enough at home? Oh, no. Ash is having boyfriend troubles? Oh, no. They’re familiar and bland, and make everything all the more predictable.
On the plus side, when the finale comes around, it’s a show stealer. It’s not groundbreaking or mind blowing or even all that shocking, but it’s fun, and that’s what’s important. That’s what the film was going for. It aims to get kids to jump up and dance along, and it does so. It knows what it’s going for and it’s able to achieve that, creating a toe-tapping, smile-inducing finale that lets all these characters shine. You may have to sludge through an overlong runtime, some truly awful humour and a lot of generic plots to get there, but the finale makes the whole thing worthwhile.
To sum up, Sing is without a doubt one of the weaker animated films of 2016, but with that being said, I was still able to enjoy it for what it was. It’s all over the place, generic and a little too kid friendly to work at times, but the song covers are great, if not occasionally forgettable, and kids of all ages will have a ball.
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